Louise Linton, wife of US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, posted on Instagram about a “day trip” the couple took to Kentucky, using a government plane to get there. With hashtags, she also called out the makers of her designer clothes: “#rolandmouret pants, #tomford sunnies, #hermesscarf.”
Then she mocked an Instagram user who criticized her: “Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country? I’m pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day ‘trip’ than you did.”
The Instagram has since been deleted, but Margarita Noriega, a social media consultant for Wordpress, tweeted a screenshot:
The couple traveled to Kentucky with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to promote Trump’s proposed tax reform. After an Instagram user named Jenni Miller commented on the use of taxpayer funds for the plane, saying, “glad we could pay for your little getaway,” Linton fired back.
In a long reply, complete with emojis of a face blowing kisses, Linton implied that Miller made less money and paid less in taxes than either her or her husband.
“Aw!!! Did you think this was a personal trip?!” Linton wrote. “Adorable!”
Do you think the US govt paid for our honeymoon or personal travel?! Lololol. Have you give more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country? I’m pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day ‘trip’ than you did.” Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours. You’re adorably out of touch.”
Linton’s post continued to get more personal, commenting on Miller’s own photos of her family.
“Your kids look very cute,” she added. “Your life looks cute. I know you’re mad but deep down you’re really nice and so am I. Sending me passive aggressive Instagram comments isn’t going to make life feel better.”
(This isn’t Linton’s first time experiencing a social media backlash — she’s also the author of a disputed and much-panned memoir about a gap year in Africa that went viral in 2016.)
Linton’s misstep is part of a bigger pattern
Linton’s post could have doubled as an ad for high-end designer clothes — and that’s part of a pattern for the Trump administration, which has mingled wealth and privilege with a disregard for ethics rules and conflicts of interest.
Mnuchin, Linton’s husband, is a former Goldman Sachs executive who has a net worth in the hundreds of millions. Trump’s Cabinet is the wealthiest in history. His secretaries for Treasury, commerce, education, and transportation have a combined net worth of about $8.1 billion.
This administration has also struggled with standard separation of business and politics. Kellyanne Conway used the White House podium to urge Americans to “go buy Ivanka [Trump]’s stuff.” Mnuchin himself was criticized for neglecting to disclose $100 million in assets, and for a tongue-in-cheek promotion of The Lego Batman Movie, which his company produced and which he endorsed in an interview (with the disclosure that he wasn’t supposed to be doing that).
This display of wealth runs in stark contrast to Trump’s campaign promises to “drain the swamp” of industry lobbyists and banking executives — as well as his election by working-class voters struggling to get by.
As a matter of fact, Mnuchin and McConnell were in Kentucky to push for tax reform and cuts to corporate taxes, calling them burdensome. In remarks to a local chamber of commerce, Mnuchin said that "over 80 percent of business taxes is borne by the worker," promising that corporate tax cuts would lead to wage increases. There’s also an argument to be made that those tax cuts largely benefit top earners and shareholders, and don’t make it down to the workers who need a wage boost.
The Washington Post noted that Treasury secretaries usually don’t fly on government planes for domestic trips, and that Linton’s traveling with her husband on government business has been controversial in Washington. A spokesperson for Mnuchin told reporters the couple reimbursed the government for their travel costs.
In an interview with the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman, Miller, the woman who commented on Linton’s Instagram post, said she thought that it was inappropriate to flaunt designer brands on a trip to Kentucky, a state with a high poverty rate.